Michie Stadium is the main football stadium for the United States Military Academy at West Point. It serves as home to Army Football and Army Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse and is consistently ranked as one of the best, most scenic college football stadiums in the entire nation.
Located at the historic “West Point” of the Hudson River, Fortress West Point was established to guard Albany and Upstate New York from the invading British during the Revolutionary War. The West Point is itself part of a notoriously tricky S-turn that required sailing ships to slow and tack on their way upriver. The Continental Army installed a coastal artillery battery at this point along with a Great Chain to block the river, denying access to the British Navy. The Army then installed a series of small infantry redoubts in the surrounding heights to protect the battery from an assault by British infantry.
The United States Military Academy (USMA) was founded at West Point in 1802. The Academy was itself something of a compromise. President Thomas Jefferson wanted a national academy similar to the Sorbonne in France. Military hardliners in Congress wanted a stronger Army. USMA met both needs. Today’s military academies reflect this compromise in that highly select students matriculate at taxpayer expense but owe a debt of military service after graduation.
West Point cadets are college students, but they are on active duty in the U.S. Army, too.
Army Football plays twelve regular season college football games per year as part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Depending on the year, this may include five or six home games played at Michie Stadium. The number of home games changes because of the Army-Navy Game. Army-Navy is played at a neutral site, but it counts as a home game for one of the teams.
Army Football has six home games in 2019—Rice, Morgan State, Tulane, San Jose State, UMass, and VMI. Michie Stadium seats about forty-thousand fans, but save for select matchups—like home games against Air Force—it rarely sells out. Decent seats can be had for between $40 and $65 depending on seat location and the game day match-up. However, visitors will still have to pay for a parking pass, $15 in advance or $20 on game day. Tickets are available at GoArmyWestPoint.Com or at third-party vendors like StubHub or SeatGeek. The Tulane game is by far the most likely sell out in 2019.
Note: Season tickets are a great deal at Michie Stadium, especially if you are willing to walk a little. Premium seats and parking can get pricey, but if you’re willing to hike up to the stadium and sit along the goal line, you can attend the whole season for something like $350, parking included. I did this myself for a while, and it was well worth it. Army Sports also sells a three-game Field Goal Mini Plan.
Getting on Post and Parking
West Point is a mountainside riverine fortress built on imminently defensible terrain long before the invention of motor vehicles. This gives the place its spectacular views, but it also means that the road network is entirely constructed of winding two lanes roads. Parking is limited, and there are exactly three ways on and off post. Moreover, West Point exists fully in three dimensions. Michie Stadium sits well above the Cadet Areas and the Plain, which in turn sit above Eisenhower Hall, the Field House, Buffalo Soldier Field, and several major parking areas.
If you remember nothing else, remember this:
GET THERE EARLY.
For a noon kickoff, you will definitely want to be on post no later than 10 am.
If you’ve never spent any time around military members, it may surprise you to learn that West Point has a vibrant pregame tailgate tradition. But look, Army officers are planners by nature, and really, no one raises Hell like a bunch of soldiers blowing off steam on the weekend.
How you get on post is determined by where you are supposed to park. If you don’t have a parking pass, you are supposed to enter through Washington Gate (the northern gate) and park in one of the Blue lots. These are all well away from the stadium, necessitating shuttle busing, but they are reasonably convenient for getting on and off post. That’s a good thing!
Alas, if you’re unfamiliar with the Academy, and you’ve not done any research ahead of time, your GPS will probably take you to Thayer Gate (the southern gate). You will still get where you are supposed to go—eventually—but traffic at Thayer Gate tends to be very heavy, both because Buffalo Soldier Field is a major parking area located right inside the gate and because bunches of people who don’t know where they’re going will be coming in that way.
No matter where you park, you will almost certainly face either a substantial walk to the stadium or a ride on one of the shuttle buses. If you’ve got time, some physical stamina, and decent walking shoes, the hike around Trophy Point, the Plain, and the Superintendent’s House is well worth it. If you stop by Grant Hall, you can grab a cup of coffee or some light snacks and maybe see some of the cadets in their natural habitat. From there, you can either walk up to the stadium or catch the Trophy Point shuttle bus. If this is your first time at West Point, I strongly recommend doing at least some sightseeing.
Army Football regulars always tailgate. In fact, in the years before the team’s resurgence, the tailgate was often the highlight of the experience. Personally, I like to get there early, park, grill out, drink beer, and then stumble up to the stadium in time for the parachute jump.
If you don’t necessarily care about sightseeing, this is the way to do it. Try to get a parking spot with a decent view. There are plenty.
Note: Army Sports has recently partnered with The Tailgate Guys for turnkey tailgating services. Class reunion tailgates are usually held down at Buffalo Soldier Field. Lots of smaller tailgates are located up at Daly Field near the Plain or down by South Dock. There is also a substantial tailgating presence up in the lots above the stadium and along the access road by Lusk Reservoir, but you won’t get to one of these if you don’t know someone who parks up there.
You may hear about some of these during your trip.
Trophy Point. The scenic bluff overlooking the Hudson River, so-called because it displays cannons, i.e. war trophies, taken by the U.S. Army. Battle Monument is located on Trophy Point.
Trophy Point took on a new meaning today.
— ArmyWestPoint Sports (@GoArmyWestPoint) May 20, 2019
The Plain. The parade ground, located in the middle of post. It sits in front of the Mess Hall and the Cadet Areas and behind Trophy Point.
Cadet Areas. Where the cadet barracks are located. These areas are off-limits to visitors.
Doubleday Field. The baseball stadium, located near the Plain.
Quarters 100. The Superintendent’s house, overlooking the Plain.
Flirtation Walk. Also called “Chain Battery Walk,” this is the access trail to the old coastal artillery site. It’s now called Flirtation Walk, or “Flirtie”, because cadets are forbidden public displays of affection. By tradition, though, only cadets and their guests are allowed access to Flirtie, so the place became something like Make Out Point back in the day. Flirtie runs along the river below Trophy Point.
Michie Stadium. The football stadium, located up the hill from the Plain.
Lusk Reservoir. Located across from Michie Stadium. Lusk Reservoir has 78 million gallons when the water is flowing over the spillway.
Michie Stadium looking gorgeous!
— Matt Drinkall (@DrinkallCoach) April 25, 2019
Black Knights Alley. Held on the access road between Michie Stadium and Lusk Reservoir. Pregame festivities start around 10 am. No beer is available inside the stadium, but you can buy beer and food at Black Knights Alley, and the Benny Havens Band plays there before games.
Grant Hall. A reinforced coffee shop located just outside the Cadet Areas on Thayer Road. As a visitor, this is your best chance to see cadets going about their daily lives.
Buffalo Soldier Field. The large grassy field located just inside Thayer Gate.
Thayer Hotel. The post hotel, located just across from Buffalo Soldier Field. The hotel itself may or may not be worth an overnight stay, but it’s a great place to get a drink after the game, and they have a terrific Sunday brunch. Nice views of the river, too.
North and South Docks. Large parking areas down by the river. South Dock in particular tends to host a lot of tailgates. It’s a LONG walk from the docks to the stadium, but the shuttle bus service is not bad.
The Visitor’s Center. Located just outside Thayer Gate, West Point’s Visitor’s Center has a full-on museum and a massive gift shop.
Black Knights Alley & the Benny Havens Band
When I come up with my wife or one of my buddies, I tend to hang out in the parking lot, grill, and drink plenty of beer. When I come up with one of my kids, though, I’ll usually stop by Grant Hall for a quick bite before heading up to Black Knights Alley to listen to the Benny Havens Band.
Black Knights Alley is great because they have lots of activities for kids along with food, restrooms, and merchandise tents. It can get crowded, but it’s a fun kind of crowded, and the area near the stadium is scenic.
Weather permitting, the Army Parachute Team jumps into Michie Stadium about fifteen minutes before kickoff, carrying the game ball and the flag. This is the Military Academy’s competitive parachute team, not the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights, so the parachutists are (mostly) cadets.
Moving around inside Michie Stadium is not always easy, but folks are unfailingly polite, so with a little time and patience, you will eventually get where you’re going.
Perhaps the biggest point of confusion arises with the section numbers. Sections 1, 2, 3… to 32 are lower level sections. Sections U-9, U-10… to U-16 are upper level sections. I sit in Section 10, and invariably someone from Section U-10 will be sitting in my seats when I finally get to them. This isn’t a huge issue, but I’m sure it’s a pain to hike up from Section 10 to Section U-10.
I personally like being down close to the field because when I yell at the visiting team, I want them to hear me. I don’t go to football games to watch, I go to participate. However, the upper level sections all offer an excellent view of the field—arguably better than the view from lower down. It can get cold and rather windy up there late in the fall, however, so if you sit up there, do yourself a favor and bring a blanket.
Concessions at the stadium are honestly not great. I don’t know that there’s an easy fix for this, but the lines can get pretty long, especially around halftime. This is another reason why tailgating is so important. Don’t go into Michie Stadium on an empty stomach. That’s a bad mistake.
My final note is for Grads: it’s worth your time to try to meet up with your classmates during the game to take a group picture. Especially if you’ve got classmates who are on faculty, meet up in one of the middle sections during halftime and pose. You’ll be glad you did.
We sing the Alma Mater after every game. Please stay for that.
It can take some time to get out of the stadium after the game, but the walk back to the car is usually downhill and pretty easy, and with rare exceptions, it doesn’t take too long to get off post. Postgame tailgating is great, but we don’t do it as often as we should because of the drive home. Still, my favorite games have been the ones when I’ve met up with classmates afterwards. Time permitting, that’s the best part of the experience.